13th St Train Bridge – Kamela Eaton

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13th St Train Bridge – Kamela Eaton

Kamela Eaton  |  @kamelaeaton

“Growing up in Northeast Wichita, I was bused through the NorthEnd, via 13th and 21st streets, to OK Elementary, Hadley Jr. High and North High schools. To and from school each day we passed a large industrial crude oil refinery which expelled fire (like a dragon), offensive smells and smoke into our neighborhood 24/7 until it was demolished in 2008. In addition, there were massive concrete grain elevators, a slaughterhouse and meat processing plant and three or four sets of rough, bumpy railroad tracks. Looking out on those apocalyptic like landscapes and structures from the bus window, I often experienced feelings of shame, sadness and despair. After moving back to Wichita in 2008, I was disappointed to see that these areas were just as bleak as I had remembered, if not more so. Upon hearing of Armando Minjarez and the Horizontes Project, I was inspired and excited about the concept of uniting and empowering, through art and community collaborations, these two marginalized communities of color. Given the socio-political climate of today, the idea of reclaiming our space, working in solidarity and cultivating our neighborhoods feels more necessary than ever.”

Solidarity (Stronger Together)

The concept for this mural is an original, one of a kind, new work that will illustrate an uplifting image of unity and support between the brown and black communities of NorthEnd and Northeast Wichita. Because I believe that women are the backbone of these communities, I chose to depict two beautiful, powerful women, one brown, one black, with hands held high in solidarity as representatives of their neighborhoods. Their straight forward gaze is unapologetically directed at the viewer. In their hair, are symbols of cultural pride (the red rose and cowrie shell), and the ribbon and lettering style in the lower area are a nod to old school tattoos and Mexican culture as well. The large sunflower represents the loyalty and longevity of these two cultures in Wichita and the state of Kansas. And, like the residents of these communities, the sunflower is not only extremely beautiful and radiant, it can also be a source of nourishment and sustenance (sunflower seeds). While the rainbow can symbolize many things to many people, in this instance, it is a symbol of solidarity with and inclusion of the Wichita LBTGQ community, especially those of color(of which I am a member). Lastly, the background of stars in a dark blue sky symbolizes our ancestors, who are always with us and play a vital role in both cultures as well. The overall palette for this work will be bright, vibrant colors that reflect the spirit of the two cultures and their potential to thrive and flourish despite and because of our difficult, yet inspiring histories in the city of Wichita. With the mural at the 13th Street Bridge, I would like the children who live in these neighborhoods, who may be headed to school, to see the artwork and not only know that someone from their community created it with them in mind but also, to believe that there is beauty, strength and resilience in their communities, as well as hope for a bright future together-in unity with one another.